Snow parks in the Cascade Mountains are a great choice during winter. But on the rare occasion the Seattle area gets enough flurries for a snow day, local kids take to any of the hundreds of parks and green spaces around the region for some sledding fun.
Tips for sledding safely
These are some good rules to ensure your snow day of fun remains a fun memory.
- Choose a hill that is not too steep and has a flat area at the end where you can glide safely to a stop.
- Avoid hills that end at a street, parking lot, pond, trees, or other objects that could cause you to crash dangerously.
- Dress for cold weather. This includes layers, waterproof gear and sturdy boots. Don’t forget a hat and gloves or mittens.
- Wear a helmet designed for winter sports or a bike helmet.
- Tuck long hair under a cap and avoid long scarves that can get caught as you slide downhill, pulling you off suddenly or worse…strangling you.
- Have a plan in case of emergency. Either have an adult present and/or a cell phone.
- Pre-school age children should sled paired with an adult. Preteens should be supervised by an adult. Teens are usually okay on their own, though safety rules can go out the window. So, be sure to refresh them on safety issues.
- Slide downhill in a seated position, facing forward. Other positions greatly increase the risk of head injury; don’t slide standing up, facing backwards, or laying down face-first.
- If you fall off the sled, move out of the way quickly.
- If your sled won’t stop, roll off and away from it.
- Return to the top of the hill by walking up the side, leaving the middle of the hill open for other sledders.
Avoid these risky behaviors
No matter how fun they seem, these activities increase the likelihood of collision and injury.
- Don’t sled with more than one person per sled, except adults sledding with young children.
- Don’t sled in chains.
- Don’t sled behind moving vehicles.
- Don’t sled on unsafe hills that end in traffic areas or other objects such as cars, trees, and ponds.
No sled? Alternative sled ideas
A proper sled with braking ability is the safest way to sled. However, since Seattle sees relatively little snow, many people don’t own a sled and instead find alternatives for a quick day in the snow on a nearby slope.
We’ve arranged our list in order of best to worse sled alternatives. The best ones are cheap, easy to find or make, don’t harm any household objects, and work well as a sliding device on snow.
- Cardboard. This is our favorite because it’s very available, cheap, and easy. You usually want a box long enough for you legs, then hold up the sides as you slide down the hill. It might not be long lasting in wet snow but it’s a quick and decent alternative for a snow day. If you need carboard, check grocery stores or buy a large box for a few dollars at the nearest U-Haul store.
- DIY Carboard sleds. Adding duct tape and/or plastic can make a sturdier, longer-lasting, and faster sled. For construction ideas, watch this dad and his son make a couple of makeshift sleds in this YouTube video: How to make a Canadian Duct Tape Sled.
- Heavy plastic trash bag. The trick when using a trash bag is to make sure your bum and clothing are covered and don’t touch the snow, which will stop you from sliding. If you can’t pull the bag up to your waist, you need to cut the bottom off one bag and pull it up to your waist, then slide on a second bag over your feet and up over the first bag. The other downside is you are basically sitting directly on the ground with just 3mm of plastic between you and the sliding surface, which is certainly cold and may not work well on a hill that’s not covered with a decent amount of packed snow, which is often not the case on a Seattle snow day.
- Plastic or vinyl tarps and shower curtains. These work like heavy trash bags but are best on icy surfaces.
- Plastic laundry basket, baby tub, wash basin, or plastic bin, lid, or cafeteria tray. Baskets and bins tend to work only for small kiddos. However, pre-schoolers shouldn’t ride by themselves, so these choices can be risky and dangerous. A lid or tray generally needs to be mostly smooth. So, hard plastic can work in a pinch, if you can locate the right type of object. Other alternatives tend to be easier to find or construct.
- Rubber inner tubes. The stand-by of many baby-boomer childhoods. Sigh.
- Air mattresses and kiddie pools. We prefer cardboard or plastic trash bags, since replacing the air mattress or kiddie pool when summer vacation arrives can be costly.
- Outdoor cushions from patio furniture or a boat. Keep in mind this could destroy the cushions by permanently soiling or tearing. So, it’s not a great alternative. It tends to be one used by teens without their parent’s knowledge. Just sayin’.
- Metal cookie sheet with a rim or smooth hub caps. These objects can be tricky for several reasons. They’re small and require taller, bigger people to either site cross-legged or keep your extended legs raised as you careen downhill. Metal can make a very fast sled, which can be more dangerous. So, if you have them, metal objects are best reserved for gentle slopes and shorter runs, if at all.
- PVC pipe and wood. There are ideas for creating sleds out of plastic pipe with or without plywood tops. But honestly, if you are going to go to this much time and expense, we’d suggest buying a plastic slider from the drug store, hardware store, or big box store.
- Purchase plastic snow saucers and flexible sleds. Inexpensive models go for around $10-$20. Of course, we’d suggest you use carboard or trash bags this year, then try to pick up a plastic flyer on sale around the end of February or later.
Note that any object, such as plastic bins, kiddie pools, or cushions that are re-purposed as a sled will likely get destroyed in the process. Although these items are often recommended, don’t use them if you still want to use them for their intended purpose. A DIY alternative or inexpensive saucer or sled might be your best option all the way around for a snow day in Seattle.
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